“His story doesn’t quite make sense,” says Dr. David Rubin, chief of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at the University of Chicago.According to news reports, Frey suffered from digestive tract problems for decades and had part of his intestine removed in 1990. The Eagles bowed out of the Kennedy Center Honors in November because Frey was facing another intestinal operation.The thing is, “multiple bowel resections are performed in Crohn’s disease,” the other type of inflammatory bowel disease, not ulcerative colitis, Rubin notes. Crohn’s can affect the entire digestive tract, while ulcerative colitis affects just the colon.“When ulcerative colitis is bad, people have their colon removed in one surgery,” Rubin says. “Also, people just don’t die from ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s.”
Were Medications the Culprit?
Medications used to treatSevere Rheumatoid Arthritis work by suppressing, or calming down, the immune system, leaving patients at an increased risk of an infection such as pneumonia, which reportedly contributed to Frey’s death. “Infections are a complication with the medications that are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis,” Manno says.
However, Marcy O’Koon, director of consumer health for the Arthritis Foundation, notes the medications do not cause ulcerative colitis, as Frey’s manager reported. (O’Koon says Frey had been involved in Arthritis Foundation events related to Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis.)But pneumonia can be a killer even in people who are not immunocompromised, says Dr. Ellen Goldmuntz, a specialist in rheumatologic autoimmune diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.Rheumatoid arthritis can be associated with other serious medical conditions, especially cardiovascular disease, Manno says, explaining that the connection “is probably something about the chronic inflammatory state.”Glenn Frey is not the first celebrity whose death has concerned some of her patients, Manno says. Alarms went off in February 2014 when Ghostbusters star Harold Ramis died of complications from vasculitis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the blood vessels.